Last night, a 12 year old girl was hospitalised after attempting to set herself on fire inside the island’s regional processing centre–one of several attempts over the past few weeks according to The Guardian. Although family and friends were able to intervene in time to save her, the girl sustained injuries and was relocated to Nauru Hospital.
Her horrifying attempt is far from an isolated incident.
Several other children (and adults) detained within Nauru’s processing centre have used the same method over the past few months. Their pleas growing ever more desperate. Others are starving themselves for weeks on end.
One 17 year old girl is reportedly in a critical condition after refusing to eat, take in fluids or accept medical care for the best part of three weeks. Doctors have repeatedly instructed that the girl be relocated to a hospital off the island warning officials she suffers from severe depression and ‘resignation syndrome’– a condition reportedly rife within the processing centre with children experiencing anxiety, confusion and a lack of perceived safety.
A source close to the girl told The Guardian that prior to detainment, she was a bright and happy young woman with ambitious dreams for her future.
“Before she got sick, she was the best-performing student. She had a dream to be a doctor in Australia and to help others. Now, she is on food-and-fluid refusal and begging to die as death is better than Nauru.”
Exposure to mass grief and despair is inescapable and contributes to high rates of mental health problems. Some children residing in Nauru may have been there up to five years total. Their hopes of finding a place of safe resettlement would have all but diminished.
Treatment of resignation syndrome is urgent, and needs to take place in a hospital setting with specialist paediatric teams, best nutritional support and intravenous rehydration and monitoring of organ function. None of that can be adequately administered inside a processing centre like Nauru.
Despite the several children and adults critically ill inside the island’s processing centre, the Australian Government is still resistant to shifting gears. Certainly Peter Dutton, in charge of the country’s immigration portfolio, appears to be preoccupied right now. His mind and considerations a million miles from the self-harming children of Nauru.
New Zealand’s Prime Minister, Jacinda Ardern however isn’t giving up without a fight. Pressure is mounting for Australia to accept NZ’s offer to take in 150 refugees from Manus and Nauru with Ardern flying to the island later this month to meet with officials.
On Monday, World Vision called for the Prime Minister to resettle all 119 children being detained, as well as their families. In response, Ardern reiterated her offer publicly.
“New Zealand remains ready and willing to take on 150 refugees from Manus Island or Nauru, you know of course you would hope that would include the women and children that World Vision are advocating for,” she said.
Shadow Minister for Immigration and Border Protection, Shayne Neumann also wrote to Malcolm Turnbull, Scott Morrison and Peter Dutton urging them to accept New Zealand’s offer.
“Now is the time for the Turnbull Government to accept New Zealand’s offer to resettle eligible refugees from Manus and Nauru so that they – including children – are resettled as quickly as possible.”
Let’s hope our Government heeds the advice and, just for once, acts in the interests of something other than themselves.